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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 May 30;55(11):4348-56. Epub 2007 May 8.

Vapor-phase activities of cinnamon, thyme, and oregano essential oils and key constituents against foodborne microorganisms.

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Department of Analytical Chemistry, Aragón Institute of Engineering Research, i3A, CPS-University of Zaragoza, María de Luna Street 3, E-50018 Zaragoza, Spain.


The aim of the study presented here was to gain knowledge about the vapor-phase antimicrobial activity of selected essential oils and their major putatively active constituents against a range of foodborne bacterial and fungal strains. In a first step, the vapor-phase antimicrobial activities of three commercially available essential oils (EOs)-cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and oregano (Origanum vulgare)-were evaluated against a wide range of microorganisms, including Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Salmonella choleraesuis), Gram-positive bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Enterococcus faecalis), molds (Penicillium islandicum and Aspergillus flavus), and a yeast (Candida albicans). The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were generally lower for oregano EO than for the thyme and cinnamon EOs, especially against the relatively resistant Gram-negative. The persistence of the EOs' antimicrobial activities over time was assessed, and changes in the composition of the atmosphere they generated over time were determined using single-drop microextraction (SDME) in combination with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and subsequent analysis of the data by principal component analysis (PCA). More relevant chemicals were selected. In addition, the vapor-phase activities of putatively key constituents of the oils were screened against representative Gram-positive (L. monocytogenes) and Gram-negative (S. choleraesuis) bacteria, a mold (A. flavus), and a yeast (C. albicans). Of the tested compounds, cinnamaldehyde, thymol, and carvacrol showed the strongest antimicrobial effectiveness, so their MICs, defined as the minimum vapor concentrations that completely inhibited detectable growth of the microorganisms, were calculated. To check for possible interactions between components present in the EOs, cinnamon EO was fortified with cinnamaldehyde and thyme EO with thymol, and then the antimicrobial activities of the fortified oils were compared to those of the respective unfortified EOs using fractional inhibitory concentration (FIC) indices and by plotting inhibition curves as functions of the vapor-phase concentrations. Synergistic effects were detected for cinnamaldehyde on A. flavus and for thymol on L. monocytogenes, S. choleraesuis, and A. flavus. In all other cases the fortification had additive effects, except for cinnamaldehyde's activity against S. choleraesuis, for which the effect was antagonistic. Finally, various microorganisms were found to cause slight changes over time to the atmospheres generated by all of the EOs (fortified and unfortified) except the fortified cinnamon EO.

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